Over the past 25 years, Dignity Health has awarded more than $50 million to more than 3,000 projects across the country through its Community Grants program, with the goal of improving access to jobs, housing, food, education and health care in low-income and minority communities.
On Jan. 15, Dignity Health and Mark Twain Medical Center (MTMC) continued this work by awarding $32,000 to Murphys nonprofit Mind Matters at an awards luncheon at the Community Education Center at MTMC in San Andreas.
Nicki R. Stevens, marketing and business development manager for MTMC and Dignity Health, addressed the gathering.
“It’s a beautiful day,” she said. “We get together during this time to converse with one another, quite frankly, and to share our work from last year, and to hear about what this amazing opportunity is going to do for other organizations going into 2020.”
Doug Archer, president and CEO of MTMC, took a break from his day to attend the event.
“Today is going to be a busy day for us here at Mark Twain,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of things going on; some exciting stuff. But one of the more exciting things happening today is this event here, and representing partnerships with the community, supporting a lot of the great work being done across the community, and I think it’s really neat to see the results of last year, and then connecting with what we’re up to this year.”
Archer said that he was impressed by what he has seen during his brief time in the county.
“I’ve been in the county for not quite a year – March will be a year,” he said. “And true to form – fully expected this – but I’ve still been impressed with how deep it goes here, just the community involvement and the community support, and the neighborly sentiments, and just the way that this county operates. You help each other out, and you look for people that need help and you provide that help, and we pull together. I think that’s what makes this county really strong. So we’re happy to be here and we’re happy to be a part of that support.”
Over a meal provided by Carmen’s Cafe, the hospital’s eatery, Stevens spoke to the Enterprise about how grant recipients are chosen each year.
“Our grant period historically opens right around the end of May,” she said. “And it’s usually about a 45-day window for letters of intent. And then, once we receive letters of intent, then those organizations that align with our mission, vision and values and our community-needs assessment for what the community needs relative to the organization’s mission, vision and values, and match with ours. Then we invite those respective organizations to submit a full grant proposal, and we select those right around the end of August. Then we have a very detailed evaluation process that takes place, and then each hospital submits their final recommendation to our corporate office, and then they give the final determination.”
Last year, Catholic Charities (of the Diocese of Stockton) received a $30,682 grant from MTMC and Dignity Health through the Community Grants program for its Motherlode Wellness Program. C’Anne Johnson, a licensed marriage and family therapist for Catholic Charities, spoke on how her organization used the funds last year.
“Our program focuses on older adults. We have a lot of those in this county and in Tuolumne County, and there are a lot of them that are going through a lot of challenges,” Johnson said. “And so we recognize the barriers, and a lot of them are associated with mental health, and that’s my area of expertise.”
Johnson said that her organization used the funds to provide individual counseling, a support group and mental health stigma-reduction presentations to local residents. She said that her favorite part of the program was providing individual counseling, which took place in space provided by St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Angels Camp.
“We had a variety of issues that we addressed,” she said. “Depression was a very common one; anxiety was also a very common one, but there were several clients struggling with relationship issues, substance use, history of trauma and grief. Grief comes up a lot as well when you’re working with older folks, so those were all things that I was able to help them with.”
Johnson told the story of an older man who struggled with depression after being diagnosed with a terminal illness, separating from his spouse and coping with very low income.
“He didn’t have any hobbies; he lost a lot of friends; his support system fell apart when he separated from his partner,” she said. “So he came to see me feeling pretty suicidal.”
Over the course of treatment, the man reconnected with a family member, regained interest in old hobbies that provided some income, and even joined the support group, where he made some new social connections.
“And that’s a story that I could repeat a couple different times, with different details, and I think that’s the biggest thing that I’ve accomplished through this individual counseling piece, is helping people feel like their lives still matter, which is something that older adults struggle with,” Johnson said. “They get brushed to the side a lot. But they really do have a lot of insight, experience and skills they’ve learned over the years, and it takes someone paying attention to them and to encourage them for them to take the risk of thinking always to use those things.”
Johnson said that the support group was so successful that the group members decided to continue without her this year as a peer-led support group.
“It was a very tight-knit group,” she said. “We covered a variety of topics. We talked about brain health and how to minimize memory loss by taking care of yourself. We talked about suicide prevention and interventions. We talked about forgiveness and bitterness, stigma, labeling, communication skills, coping skills – a lot of different things.”
Johnson summarized what the grant meant to her organization.
“We built a lot of relationships with the community and started establishing our presence out here as a resource,” she said. “Thank you, again, for your support. We’ve had very wonderful experiences as a result.”
Stevens thanked Johnson for including a personal story in her presentation.
“If we changed or affected one life, that’s all that matters,” she said. “If one person’s life was changed as a result of our work together, that’s a great thing that we can all smile about.”
Cristi Canepa, executive director of Mind Matters Clinic, spoke on her organization’s work in the county.
“Mind Matters is a nonprofit located in Murphys,” she said. “We’ve been there since 2007. We serve individuals and families that are affected by autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and learning disabilities, and we also serve as a community resource for these diagnoses. I want to thank Dignity Health and MTMC for offering this yearly grant to the nonprofits in our county. As you can see by what was just shared, it really is impactful.”
Canepa said that Mind Matters is partnering with the Calaveras Youth Mentoring Program and Calaveras County Behavioral Health in order to carry out the grant program, which will include providing 300 free counseling sessions to Calaveras County children between the ages of 5 and 17, doing social skills groups and training with youths and mentors at the Calaveras Youth Mentoring Program, and providing tips and tricks to serving individuals with mental health diagnoses presented during emergencies.
“Mind Matters is honored to be chosen as this year’s grant recipient, and we’re sincerely grateful for the opportunity to provide these services in our community,” Canepa said.
Stevens thanked everyone for attending, and summarized what had been achieved through the local grant program over the years.
“Since MTMC and Dignity Health have been issuing these grants to Calaveras County organizations and beyond, it’s just over $400,000 that we’ve been able to give back in the way of grants,” she said. “And that’s outside of our charitable care that we proudly continue to support. I think that speaks very strongly to our commitment, it speaks very strongly to your dedication, and this is going to be a great year.”